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Dogs turn up heat, wear down Knights

Posted: November 29, 2018 11:16 a.m.
Updated: November 30, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

CAMDEN’S DEVANTE JOHNSON GLIDES to the basket while managing to elude NC defender Markell Portee in first half action from Tuesday’s game in Boonetown.

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It was not so much a question of if it would happen, but when it would happen. And, Kerry Hayes knew, eventually, the answer was coming.

Fielding a starting five made up of players who had been in the gym for one full week after the completion of their football season, Hayes, North Central’s second-year head basketball coach, was well aware that his team did not have its basketball legs coming into Tuesday’s season opener with visiting Camden. He also knew the Bulldogs, who did not start a two-sport player, were going to come at his team by turning the heat and intensity up on the Knights.

With his team carrying a 33-32 halftime lead, Camden head coach Ron McKie called for a change in defensive strategy to open the second half. Coming out in a man-to-man, full court press, the Bulldogs used a 16-7 half-opening run to help pave the way for an 84-65 victory over their in-county hosts.

Hayes, who joined the basketball team after playing for the Camden High football team during his high school athletic career, understood his team would wear down at some point in time. In the third quarter, NC’s Tyrek Jenkins and Markell Portee both left the games with cramping issues in their legs. That hardly helped a team which was without seniors Jamel Jones and Esteban Rodriguez in a game played inside The Castle in Boonetown.

“We have to get in shape. Our legs are dead,” Hayes said. “Two of our guys started cramping and that puts extra pressure on you. We already have a couple guys who are out right now. We went deep into our bench and, we just couldn’t pull it out.”

McKie, who did not start any of the three football players on his 12-man roster, has had the majority of his team practicing since the start of the month. He decided to play his trump card after NC gave the Dogs all they wanted and then some in the first 16 minutes of a contest in which 52 fouls were called with 28 going against the visitors

“I said that we just had to go 94 feet. We wanted to pick them up on defense the whole time,” McKie said of turning this into a full-court affair in the second half. 

“I know they are not deep and that they’d been playing football for a long time so, they’re not in great basketball shape. We should be in better shape so I said, ‘We’re just going to go up and down the court and if the score ends up 100 to 99, that’s fine.’ We wanted to wear them out with the press. We weren’t doing that in the first half with our zone press.

“(Portee) is a great player. We were lucky that he had cramps. If he was at full speed, we’d still be chasing him around this court.”

The NC loss came in spite of a game- and career-best 29-point effort from ZyqwanDunham, who was 17-for-18 from the foul line. The charity stripe was very good to the Knights who dropped in 28 of their 35 freebies. Portee was next with 18.

“Zyqwan had a terrific game for us,” Hayes said of his senior guard. “If he continues to do that and, when we get some guys back and get more help, we should be fine.”

Camden was led by a career-high 20 points from junior forward Trajon Pate with 10 of those coming in the Dogs’ 29-point third quarter explosion which gave the guests a 65-52 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs’ hiking up the defensive intensity paid quick dividends as they answered Dunham’s second half opening layin by embarking on an 8-2 spree to regain the lead. The run started with Pate’s turnaround 10-foot jumper followed by his putback which put the visitors on top for keeps at 37-34. A Nate Quattlebaum trey was next in a rally which was capped by Pate’s answering a pair of Dunham free throws with a steal and layin to make it 44-36 with 5:41 showing on the third quarter clock.

Trailing, 52-43, following a traditional 3-point play from Camden’s Demonte Green, NC closed the gap to two points by outscoring the Dogs, 9-2, in the span of a little more than a minute. Dunham scored four points in the flurry including a fast break layin to knock the lead down to 54-52 with 2:09 to play in the third.

With Jenkins and Portee on the sideline battling leg cramps, Camden closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run with Pate and Nyciere Greene scoring a pair of baskets each.

“I was worried about this happening because we were limited with a couple guys out,” Hayes said of his players’ running out of steam. “I wanted to try and keep the game at a slow place, play zone and hit our breaks when we had chances. At the end, they played man-to-man and wore us down and wore us out in the second half.”

Camden never let its lead slip below 11 points in the fourth quarter. Treys from Kasean Crews and Greene helped the Dogs go on top, 70-56, with just under six minutes to play. Portee, who scored 18 points in the loss, drilled a 3-pointer from the top left of the arch for his team’s final points which came with 3:40 left to play. CHS closed by scoring the final eight points of the contest to pad its lead to 19.

The Knights opened the game well  and went toe-to-toe with their AAA guests in the first half and trailed, 12-10, with 92 ticks left in the first quarter clock after Portee completed both ends of a three-point play. Camden upped the ante to 18-10 with a pair of Green free throws only for the hosts to close the opening stanza with a Portee one-handed slam dunk which came a tick before the horn sounded to end the first quarter with Camden holding an 18-14 lead.

NC would not go away, trailing by a point on four occasions. Camden increased its 25-24 lead with a Devante Johnson layin being followed by a Bryce Jeffcoat free throw to cap a four-point surge. The Dogs built a five-point, 33-28, cushion after a Pate foul shot with 1:15 left in the first half.

The Knights closed the opening half by getting a run-out layup from Dunham followed by a 10-foot pull-up jumper from the 6-foot-5 Jenkins which narrowed the gap to 33-32. NC had the chance to carry the lead into halftime only to miss a last-second shot.

Camden’s first half zone press hardly fazed the Knights who were able to get the pace of the game to Hayes’ liking.

“They were able to walk the ball down the court and were able to see things on offense. They were just breaking (our zone press,)” said Mc-Kie. “We even tried pressing after free throws and we did a poor job with that. (Switching to a man-to-man zone) was the only choice that we had.

“They played a great first half,” Mc-Kie said of the Knights. “They, easily, could have taken the lead if they made that last shot. They have a good team. We just wore them down at the end of the game.”

Hayes said he liked what he saw from his team in the first 16 minutes.

“We were rebounding the ball, we were energetic and were getting after it. The effort was there,” he said. “Again, the second half came and we were not able to muster up the defense like we were playing in the first half.”

McKie said his team, which does not have a player taller than 6-foot-2, will have to play more of an uptempo game to take advantage of its depth and not allow taller opponents to set things up and work the ball inside on offense. 

“We’re going to have to turn up the volume and get the ball up and down the court quicker,” he said. “I think we can go deep down our bench this year. I think we might to keep running this up and down, man-to-man defense.”

For North Central, Hayes said getting his football players into basketball shape is not a quick process. He is not rushing it and said once the conditioning starts to take hold and players return to the fold, the Knights will be the team that he knows they can be.

“It takes a few weeks,” Hayes said. “I don’t want to be too hard on them because we’re still trying to recoup and recover from football season. It will take us a couple weeks before we get it together.”

CHS (84): Nyciere Greene 6 2-2 16, Landon Goodwin 1 0-3 2, Dwight Coleman 3 0-0 6, Trajon Pate 8 3-5 20, Jalyn Dubose 2 1-2 5, Devante Johnson 2 0-0 4, Demonte Green  3 5-5 11, Cameron Couthen 1 0-0 2, Bryce Jeffcoat 0 2-4 2, Kasean Crews 2 1-2 7, Nate Quattlebaum 4 0-0 9. Totals: 32 14-23 84

NC (65): Zyqwan Dunham 6 17-18 29, Markell Portee 5 7-10 18, Tyrek Jenkins 5 2-5 12, Tyler Faulkenberry 1 1-2 3, Avante’ Reynolds 0 1-2 1, Dmitri Robinson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 28-35 65

Score by quarters: First: CHS, 18-14; Halftime: CHS, 33-32; Third: CHS, 65-52; Three-point goals: CHS 5 (Crews 2, Greene 2, Quattlebaum), NC 1 (Portee)


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